Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Coachella Review, part 1

I left work just before 4:30pm. This was, in fact, early, as I'm on a fun 10:30-7 schedule. I had announced my intentions to leave early and miss Monday to boot via our messaging system... weirded out several people in the process. Ahh, mission accomplished. At any rate this allowed me adequate time to go home, shower and gather up the things I had set out the previous day.

I had procured a ride with some folks I had met up with on the Coachella message board... though the car we had planned on taking was having transmission problems so it did not leave the driveway.... thus the other guy drove his Rodeo and we picked up two other people who didn't have a ride in order to offset the extra gas costs.

On the way over we listened, sort of, a mp3 mix tape of Coachella artists which varying number of us were unfamiliar with along with a few local band CDs. The discussion was wild and chaotic, mostly covering recent (and not so recent) shows, bands, comedians and whatnot. I got to my hotel in Palm Springs at around 1am... the other two people we picked up were dropped off to find a place to stay and the two I had talked to from the message board went to the condo where they were staying - which was only a half mile away from my hotel.

I was staying with some friends who had driven out from LA (though two of them had flown from Seattle first), two of which had been there last year and one of which had gone with me since 2001. We stayed at the Plaza Resort and Spa... though the name seems deceptive. Then again we didn't have much time to take advantage of... well, anything. We had a full kitchen but only used the refridgerator, various dishes, and something that made tea (that is, somebody heated water, somehow.)

We got up, got ready and headed to downtown Palm Springs for breakfast. We saw many folks who pretty much had to be in town for the festival and had a nice, relaxing breakfast.

We got to the Polo Fields around 2pm, made a note of which huge colored and numbered balloon we parked by (the balloons were wonderful, much improved over... nothing but a sea of cars) and made our way to the entrance. The line wasn't bad - though we wondered why so many people had brought cans of Full Throttle only to discard them unfinished or even unopened - and we were in before the Raveonettes started. I would've prefered to be in earlier to see Nic Armstrong and the Thieves (been listening to the album, it's quite good [very Beatlesesque blues rock]) and and the other earlier bands... but I'm sure my body appreciated a good, full, slow breakfast and that my feet appreciated the extra time sitting in the shade.

The Raveonettes played the Coachella Stage (check the map... which I can't find - this is the mainstage) and there were few enough people gathered that I was able to get reasonably close (closer than the soundstage.) This was the third time I'd seen them, basically once for each CD - I think we can count this as in support of Pretty In Black - and this was, by far, the furthest I been from them (though this was necessarily so, even if I had been "front row" the photographer's gap would've been enough.) I have a hard time reviewing their show now that I've heard the new album... though even the new songs were more noisy live. They played a good mix of songs from PIB and the Chain Gang of Love and even throwing in Do You Beleive Her? from the first EP. I had to drag myself away as M83 was calling me and they were about to start in the Gobi tent. As I headed off I was able to hear Little Animal and most of (their cover of) My Boyfriend's Back - the sound the Coachella Stage (and, it seem like, most everywhere) was turned up from previous years.

The Gobi tent is the smallest of the stages and I expected it to be packed. When I first got there I was barely under the tent and stayed mostly fully in the sun for the first several songs (mostly because as I'd slowly move up to get my head in the shade the Sun would rise a little higher to the point where I'd be out of the shade again.)

A side note: the crowds are always moving. People are always leaving sets to check out other aritsts or because they're hot, tired or hungry. New people are always showing up to stand on the outskirts or push their way through to the front. The flux is greatest just after a set ends and just as another is beginning but it doesn't stop when the music starts.

At any rate I'm very glad I got to the Gobi on time, I eventually got about halfway in. M83 were not quite the distorted wall of sound I expected, the sound was a little brighter and more upbeat. Anthony Gonzalez also did not play the shoegazer part, he was clearly enjoying the fact that his band was playing the wonderful music he wrote. He was, though silent, vibrant.

After M83 I headed to the Mojave for the Kills. I got there just after Ambulance finished so I got a position rather centered and near the front. I had seen the Kills previously at Modified Arts but the sound mix was off. I couldn't hear any vocals which meant all I got was guitar, drum machine and the visual of Jamie and Allison interacting. This was, however, enough to hook me. I picked up their EP at Zia soon afterwards and bought their first CD when it came out (and then their second when it came out a few months ago.)

The sound in the Mojave was great, the vocals were strong and the guitar was blistering.

Side note: I touched on the subject of favorite guitarists during a review of a Sonic Youth concert ( "this has nothing to do with technical skill and everything to do with making a good variety of different and interesting and otherwise pleasing sounds with the guitar.") This time around I came up with - along with Jamie - Thurston Moore, Dave Lake and Jason Pierce. Right now I'd probably throw Doug Martsch in and call it an official Top 5.

I am also becoming increasingly impressed by Allison as a vocalist. No Wow features her much more than Keep On Your Mean Side and her performance on songs like "Rodeo Town" and "Dead Road 7" just floor me.

Their live show was still very much about the interaction between the two members of the band. Someone commented that at this point they should be able to afford a drummer but I think that's missing the point - adding a human drummer would change the dynamic of the band and could kill the energy. As it stands they were both very into their performance - but not in a way that screwed up the music being played - and the crowd responded well. The amount of sexual tension, the fire, the passion was amazing to see. Partial, unordered, setlist: Cat's Claw, Kissy Kissy, No Wow, Dead Road 7, The Good Ones, I Hate the Way You Love (parts 1 and 2) and... well, I guess more. But that's all I can come up with right now. This was, for me, the best show of the day.

And, actually, at this point I'm going to end part 1 of my full review of Coachella 2005. I planned on writing on both days along with other random observations in one post... but it's not going to happen. I saw 8 more bands on Saturday. I didn't get home until 7am on Monday. There's a lot more to write about... but it will have to wait.

Note: D'oh. I was ready to post this at about 2am on 05/04/05 (that's the time stamp I'm going to give it - count this as an update - at 11pm the same day - if you wish) then I couldn't connect to anything so this wasn't posted. I cut and pasted the text (losing links) into Notepad... yet I must've missed the first several paragraphs. Thus the preceeding review is a reconstruction of the original up until I left the Raveonettes. Not that this matters all that much.


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